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“Road to nowhere” – report from Brest-Terespol border crossing

According to the accounts of foreign nationals and human rights advocates working at the border crossing station in Brest-Terespol, may migrants arriving at the border between Poland and Belarus have recently intended to seek international protection in Poland. However, Border Guard officers ignore such declarations and deny the foreign nationals entry to Poland.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights published today a report on the monitoring visit conducted in early October at the Brest-Terespol border crossing station. The monitoring action was a response to signals received by the HFHR over the recent months which concerned the Border Guard denying entry to Poland for those foreign nationals who express their intention to submit an application for international protection.

Pursuant to domestic and international law, foreign nationals should be given entry into Poland in order to have their statements reviewed by the competent administrative body – the Head of the Office for Foreigners ­– which will then decide on whether to grant them the refugee status or subsidiary protection.

“The conduct of the Border Guard officers from the Terespol Station violates domestic law, EU law and international law”, explains Marta Górczyńska, a lawyer working for the HFHR and an author of the report. “Actions of the Polish Border Guard are a part of a wider, shameful practice that is currently followed also by other countries of our region, which involves pushing asylum seekers away from the European Union’s borders”, Ms Górczyńska adds.

Turned away from the Polish and Belarussian border, persons seeking protection against persecution are forced to live in Brest, Belarus, and make subsequent attempts to submit an application for international protection. Some of the foreign nationals interviewed during the monitoring visit by the authors of the report have been trying to submit such an application dozens of times.

“These foreigners are mostly families from Chechnya with many children. Their situation deteriorates on a daily basis. Some of them, staying in Belarus for several months, ran out of money, which forced them to live at a railway station in Brest”, says Marta Szczepanik, HFHR’s expert and the other author of the report. “Many of these individuals are children”, she adds.

During the monitoring visit at the border crossing station, the authors assessed the situation of the foreign nationals residing at Brest and conducted interviews in order to explore their reasons for seeking international protection and their experiences in contacts with Polish Border Guard. “Many Chechens whom we talked to claimed to have been victims of persecution perpetrated by the Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime and feared to return home because of the danger they are exposed to in the country of origin. There were victims of torture among these persons”, Marta Górczyńska says.

The HFHR experts attempted to observe the process of filing an application for international protection at the border crossing station but the Border Guard did not allow them to do that. However, the accounts collected by the HFHR and indirect observations show that the conduct of the Border Guard may lead to an illegal denial of the right to submit an application and entry to Poland for foreign nationals seeking protection.

The report is available here.

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